An aspiring musician enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer, to receive his blessing.
Whenever Pixar releases a new film I know that sooner or later I’ll end up seeing it. Pixar is a studio that, since it’s beginning, has constantly put out beautifully animated films that tell great stories and often boast a surprising amount of emotion.
“Coco” is no different.
“Remember me, though I have to say goodbye…”
Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a young aspiring musician in a family that has outlawed music. Desperate to prove his musical talents to his family, Miguel travels to the land of the dead to meet his great-great-grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt, “Traffic”), whom was a famous musician. Aiding Miguel in his quest is a skeleton named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal, “Y Tu Mama Tambien”), a man whom almost everyone else has forgotten and is in danger of ‘the final death’.
I think movies like this are important because they can help to break the ice when broaching difficult subjects with children. Though I have no children of my own, I would imagine approaching the idea of death for the first time is one of the more difficult things we as humans have to do. How do you tell someone so young and full of life that all of this is temporary, that everything you know is slowly drifting away out from under you and there’s nothing you or anyone in the world can do to stop it? This film addresses those topics; it lets us know that we all die, and then, eventually, people will forget about us entirely. Nothing like tossing kids into a big boiling pot of existential dread, eh? While the central themes are a bit dark compared to some other Pixar films, the way the film approaches the topic is with a relatively lightness. If you’ve allowed your children to see films like “Corpse Bride” or “Nightmare Before Christmas”, this film is actually a bit tamer than those.
The production design in this movie is absolutely spellbinding. Aside from “Inside Out” I can think of no other Pixar flick this vibrantly colored. I loved the designs of both the land of the living and the land of the dead; both were unique while maintaining some similar motifs. I also loved the designs of the neon-colored animal spirit guides. The production design does a lot to add to the world building too; we get almost an entire explanation of how the magic system in this world works, so it’s really easy to follow what’s going on (even, I’m assuming, from the perspective of a child).
As far as story goes, I thought this movie was good, not great. There are certain things about the story I loved- like, for example, the fact that this was set in Mexico. I think it’s great that we get stories from other cultures, particularly when those stories give great insight to children. People are less likely to discriminate if they realize that all people struggle with the same things (start those kids learning about diversity while they’re young and maybe we can eradicate this White Nationalist crap!). I thought Miguel’s relationship with his Grandmother Coco was great, and I honestly thought the conclusion of their relationship arc at the end was absolutely beautiful; it brought me to tears (thanks Pixar, you always make me cry). However, I sort of felt like the overall story was a little bit predictable, and it really drew inspiration from “Corpse Bride”, a film which came out twelve years earlier, and which I personally enjoy a bit more. I also thought that this movie was a bit slower than some of their other films; it’s not as adventure-filled as “Up”, it’s not as delightful as “Wall-e”, and it’s not as iconic as “Toy Story”. In the end I felt like this was a very good movie, but I didn’t feel the overall emotional connection throughout; there were a few moments when this movie struck gold, which is why I still gave it a 4 star rating, but at the same time, there were a few scenes where I wondered why they stretched on as long as they did.
There hasn’t been a single Pixar film I’ve walked out of and thought, “Well, that wasn’t worth my time.” While I don’t think this is one of their better entries (it’s certainly not in my top five Pixar films), I do think that for the right crowd it will dazzle and amaze. Overall this is a very solid film with likable characters and a memorable world.
Review Written By: